dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

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If Only They Got Out More

January 24th, 2020 by dk
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I wish legislators at every level could be given a day off work every month to attend a full docket of courtroom proceedings. They would see the human face of somebody who lost their dog the night before and then couldn’t find a non-public place to sleep. They would see how difficult life can be sometimes for people who have no assumed privileges.

They would hear attorneys use loopholes in laws they’ve written to subvert their intent. They would see jurors who are genuinely confused about whether a law they worked on pertains to a very specific circumstance. Their confusion often comes down to a poorly worded phrase or clumsy sentence construction which may have seemed “good enough” when they voted for it.

And, if they attend a Supreme Court session, they’d observe justices wrestling with the wording of a law, trying their best to interpret it, but limited to the text itself. I once attended a court case that turned on whether a Virginia driver had been lawfully stopped for a missing tail light. The state’s vehicle code had not been updated since the 1940s. The code required only that a vehicle have an operating “stop lamp” (singular).

My hope would be that the lawmakers return to their regular job with newfound resolve to do their work conscientiously and thoroughly. Laws that are less than clear can sometimes tie others into Gordian knots, and it would be good for those who write laws to see the consequences for themselves.

Meanwhile, judges would likewise do well to regularly observe the difficulties their rulings can create for legislators. 

In 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Boise, Idaho had violated the constitutional rights of those without homes. Rousting them from public places amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. That decision sent city councilors and state legislators scurrying for solutions.

Circuit judges Marsha S. Berzon, Paul J. Watford, and John B. Owens may well have been correct when they described this cruelty, but where would the necessary housing units be found and who would pay for them? The judges voiced no concern about such practicalities, but they also didn’t provide access to any new resources to solve the problem.

Sometimes the court’s fallibility cuts in the opposite direction. A three-judge panel last week ruled that Eugene’s so-called Climate Kids cannot ask the courts to intervene, forcing the federal government to urgently address the hazards — present and future — that its policies have wreaked on the planet’s climate systems.

The judges ruled that the remedies must come from the legislators themselves, even though lawmakers have proven themselves incapable of sustaining their resolve at a large enough scale to make a significant difference.

Who will have the last word on the matter of the imminent climate disaster? It won’t be the lawmakers or the judges. It may be the people, rising in rebellion. More likely, it will be the planet itself.

Lawmakers and judges fail to see both the importance and the impotence of their work. If they only got out more, they could see it for themselves.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Ask Boeing About “Efficiency”

January 23rd, 2020 by dk
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Efficiency is overrated. It really doesn’t apply to human communications, and it’s dangerously irrelevant when it comes to building trust and respect. Just ask The Boeing Company. They moved their corporate headquarters from Seattle to Chicago in 2001.

At the time, Boeing promised everyone that moving the executive team to Chicago and leaving the engineers in Washington state would create new efficiencies. The supply chain built over decades would remain intact, but decision-makers would benefit from shorter plane trips to customers all around the nation.

Thanks to email and Internet connectivity, they claimed there would be no measurable loss of productivity by moving the bosses two thousand miles away. And stockholders were pleased with the tax incentives Illinois offered the company.

It was just a few years after that move that Boeing decided it was time to update their venerable 737 airliner. This would represent its fourth overhaul since the original 737 began flying in 1965. They opted for a “clean sheet” redesign, but later scaled back those ambitions to save money.

The 737 MAX is Boeing’s first commercial airliner designed entirely after the bosses left for Chicago. The disaster it represents has been literal for the 346 passengers and crew who were aboard the two verified crashes caused by design flaws. The company itself is facing a more metaphorical disaster, since the entire fleet of 387 airplanes has been grounded worldwide. Orders for additional planes have been canceled or postponed.

And then there’s the public relations situation, which counts as a disaster twice removed, but genuinely felt nevertheless. Felt, that is, by those who work for the company and its suppliers, but not by the man who led the company into these cascading catastrophes.

While Boeing’s suppliers are laying off workers, the company’s ousted CEO Dennis Muilenburg left the company with $62.2 million in compensation and pension benefits. If the company’s Seattle engineers designed a parachute made out of real gold, workers would have gladly shown Muilenburg the door — midflight.

Muilenburg was an executive with Boeing when they made the move to Chicago. He became the company’s CEO shortly after the 737 MAX redesign was made public in 2011. Whatever the corporate culture has become that produced the 737 MAX, it was under Muilenburg’s watch.

A trove of company emails reveal how that corporate culture devolved over those years:

2015: “…this is what these regulators get when they try and get in the way. They impede progress”

2017: “This airplane is designed by clowns, who in turn are supervised by monkeys.”

2018: “I still haven’t been forgiven by God for the covering up I did last year.”

2019: “Would you put your family on a MAX simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn’t.”

2020: “We regret the content of these communications, and apologize to the FAA, Congress, our airline customers, and to the flying public for them.”

Might this debacle have been avoided if Boeing hadn’t moved its headquarters to Chicago? We’ll never know for sure, but other companies would be smart to question claims for newfound efficiencies before considering any similar moves. Trust is built by showing up.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Solution From 1787 Could Save Oregon Cap-and-Trade

January 17th, 2020 by dk
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Lawmakers in Salem are struggling to rewrite Oregon’s version of a cap-and-trade program in time for their short session, which begins in two weeks. HB2020 was designed to reduce statewide emissions. Instead, it led to Republicans boycotting Salem and not returning until they were assured the bill was dead.

It’s beginning to look like that could happen again. The draft form that’s currently known as Legislative Concept 19, proposes sweeping changes that will affect millions of people. If there’s a path to legislative consensus, it has so far eluded them.

It’s during times like this, when the future is unclear, that I find history to be most useful. The revolt of sparsely populated areas against urban elites is not new to us. It’s one of the strongest strands of our heritage. Lessons learned centuries ago can be applied today.

Delegates gathered in Philadelphia to write our Constitution in 1787. Alignments quickly formed with a widening gulf between. Less populated states supported the New Jersey Plan, where each state would get a single vote. More populated states preferred the Virginia Plan, with votes apportioned by population.

Roger Sherman bridged the gap on June 29, 1787. It was immediately hailed as The Great Compromise. From his language came our bicameral Congress. It created a system where every citizen is equal, but every state is also equal. It was a brilliant solution that pleased everyone.

We can quickly adapt Sherman’s insight to reshape our cap-and-trade program in a way that affirms everything we love about Oregon. We love our people. We also love our land. Every citizen is equal, but every county is also equal.

The LC19 rewrite has already divided the state into three large areas, proposing to delay implementation of many aspects of the program for rural areas, but it hasn’t won over any Republicans so far. (Support from two Republicans would gain the Oregon Senate its required two-thirds supermajority to prevent a walkout.)

If we’ve learned anything since 1787, it’s that money moves people quickly.

LC19 envisions all sorts of fees to be collected by the state. As truckers and manufacturers see their costs rise, it’ll raise prices for consumers. It’s those “price signals” that will drive behavioral changes in response to climate change. All Oregonians will pay those increased costs equally, but rural Oregonians fear their pain will be felt more acutely.

Here comes the counterintuitive part. Increase every fee written into LC19 by 10 percent. Then rebate every penny of those additional funds to Oregon’s 36 counties — equally. Wheeler County (population 1,430) will receive a windfall, where support for LC19 is currently low. Multnomah County (population 811,880) will barely notice the rebate, but support for LC19 is already running sky high around Portland. County commissioners will be free to spend the money however they think best for their residents.

This compromise does not enhance the cap-and-trade program itself, except to make it politically viable. With great humility, our leaders should move to gain consensus across the state. This legislation needs both good policy and good politics to become genuinely effective.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Is Gratitude What’s Missing? I Wonder

January 16th, 2020 by dk
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I’m beginning to think that the most fundamental deficit that plagues modern societies may be gratitude. Whether you have a lot or a little, what you have is precious and the fact that you’re here to be having it is just short of miraculous.

Modernity tends to avert its gaze when confronted with the miraculous. That might be part of the problem. When we face something that defies explanation, our ancestors felt wonder. They were reminded how vast the world is and that they are here to play a part in it. 

Now when we see things we don’t understand — after a quick Google search and wikipedia scan — we worry that something is amiss that we can’t control. Wonder suits us better than worry.

I posed my gratitude-deficit assertion to some friends on social media. Some answered smartly that empathy is what we’re lacking. I don’t disagree, but I’m convinced that we need our own mental house in order before we can attend effectively to others. Our social self must be healthy for us to live together, but that can only follow from a healthy sense of self.

If we’re grateful for what we have — including life itself — then empathy, it seems to me, comes more easily. Those who are thankful for nothing don’t extend their hand easily to others. And when they do, it may be posed as a test — one that the other is bound to fail.

One good friend took it further, arguing that gratitude has become the new opiate of the people. In a society that worships consumerism, preaching gratitude keeps the masses “in their place” — which is to say, “down.” Being thankful, in that context, leads to being content and then complacent. No good ever came from complacency.

Others complained that it’s only inside of privilege that gratitude gains primacy. For those whose striving and discontent are literally an act of survival, pausing to be grateful could be a tragic mistake. They could be right about that. 

The Neanderthal who paused for a moment to appreciate his spear might miss the mark and lose his dinner. Assembly line workers cannot afford to pause and reflect, because the line won’t pause with them. I should empathize better with those who don’t feel they can afford gratitude.

But still. The absolute worst that could happen in those dire circumstances would be a loss of life for themselves and maybe for many of those around them. And the worst interpretation of that outcome is a return to the void from which they came. Isn’t even suffering to be preferred over non-existence?

It’s not easy to empathize with the thousands or millions of sperm that never reached an egg, or with the zygote that never grew into a recognizable form of life. But the chances of you and me meeting that fate was always vastly more likely than where we ended up.

There’s that word again — vast. I resisted when others proposed we replenish first the deficits that are downstream from existence itself, but I see a path upstream from gratitude that I hadn’t recognized before. It leads to wonder.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Sustainability Shortcut: Zero Fare Transit

January 10th, 2020 by dk
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The city of Eugene has been updating its Climate Action Plan, but meeting its aggressive targets looks increasingly unlikely. The city aims to reduce fossil fuel use to 50 percent below 2010 levels in the next ten years, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7.6% annually.

The time has come to show that the plans and commitments made are more than aspirational. Incremental improvements won’t get us where we hope to be by 2030. 

Other cities have made it a priority to “break the car culture.” No other behavioral change is likely to push the needle toward sustainability further and faster. Eugene is improving its infrastructure for bicycles, but it rains here. Many of the people who don’t fear the weather have already changed their habits.

If the Eugene City Council is looking for bold footsteps to follow, look at Kansas City, Missouri. The third leg of their bus rapid transit system just opened, so their transit system is analogous to ours. Or it was, until last month, when their city council voted unanimously to eliminate all transit fares in 2020.

Kansas City is now poised to become the largest city in the United States to institute Zero Fare Transit. Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and Denver have been talking about it, but no city larger than Corvallis has actually done it.

Will it boost ridership and reduce emissions? Almost certainly. Will the city be able to recoup the $8 million they are transferring from their general fund to the transit agency? In the long run, it will decrease road maintenance and increase economic opportunities, but how long will that take?

Lane Transit District budgets $4 million from fares and passes. It would be a heavy lift for Eugene to replace those funds alone. Neighboring cities and Lane County might be inspired to contribute. Eugene is the region’s economic engine, and social equity is a large concern across the county. 

If Eugene’s Climate Action Plan is going to match words with actions, something on this scale will be necessary. What other move could Eugene City Council make that would reduce the city’s emissions more dramatically?

Large systems don’t welcome large changes. Smaller steps can be measured and system responses refined. Fair enough. Eugene and LTD can take small steps toward Zero Fare Transit.

  • LTD offers senior citizens free fares as “Honored Riders.” Try dropping the qualifying age from 65 to 60 or 55.
  • Students (kindergarten – 12th grade) receive free fares, thanks to a grant from Oregon’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Fund. Enrolled college students get bus passes with their tuition fees. Extend this benefit to all riders under 25.
  • LTD offers deeply discounted group passes to large employers. Widen the program to local non-profit agencies to be given (or sold) to their members and supporters.
  • Eugene’s largest parking garages are free on weekends to lure shoppers and diners downtown. LTD could experiment with fare-free weekends.

If the goal for Eugene is to reduce emissions and “break the car culture,” nothing would make a bigger difference than giving residents an alternative to automatically driving their cars.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Imperial Presidency? What About an Imperial Congress?

January 9th, 2020 by dk
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Much has been written about the modern emergence of an imperial presidency. The executive branch has been steadily taking power specifically ascribed to the legislative branch. The U.S. Constitution is clear that only Congress can declare war. When was that last done? June 4, 1942.

Technically speaking, the United States has not been at war since World War II. (I can hear your relief.) Of course, that’s far from true. Congress has voted 23 times to authorize “limited military engagements” — think Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Most affirmed actions already taken by the President.

Presidents have learned t0 use administrative rules and so-called signing statements to shape or undo legislation. The co-equal branch of 535 lawmakers simply looks the other way. Recess appointments sidestep the mandated confirmation process for cabinet positions. President Trump prefers “acting” officials to serve indefinitely, without even pretending to accept Congressional oversight.

Presidents rarely veto legislation anymore, because it’s easier to have Congressional leaders bottle up bills in committee. Budgets are difficult to negotiate, but so-called Continuing Resolutions keep the money flowing without making any new decisions. When budget decisions are finally made, they are wrapped into gargantuan omnibus spending bills that confound scrutiny.

But this is only half the problem besetting the United States Congress. Virtually nothing has been said about the emerging imperialism within its ranks.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell make almost every significant decision coming from the legislative branch. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy occasionally play additional roles, but only occasionally.

When there are national security issues to be addressed, these four are joined by the chairperson and ranking minority member of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, forming the so-called “Gang of Eight.” After these eight, there’s not much for the other 527 members to do.

Most in Congress are content to help their constituents navigate the maze of bureaucracies that have become our government. That’s not unimportant work, but it’s more in the role of sherpa than leader. Others pop up regularly on cable news to talk about whatever just happened in the news, as if they had anything to do with it.

Lawmakers still write bills, but they never become law without the consent of leadership. Debates happen almost never on the floor of the Senate or the House. Votes are whipped in private. Not too long ago, a Congressperson could trade a vote for a pet project in their district, but banning earmarks put an end to most of that.

Senators could use their so-called “blue slip” power to block judges they didn’t like, but McConnell has ended that tradition. Now it’s so much simpler, if you’re a member of Congress. You show up three days a week, about 35 weeks each year, and do what you’re told.

If a Congressperson dares to disobey leadership, they risk losing their committee assignments, fundraising assistance, and protections from a primary challenge. In other words, all their time is spent keeping their job, but almost none of it is spent doing their job.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Childhood Rose Bowl Memories (and a Lesson)

January 3rd, 2020 by dk
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My mother loved the Rose Bowl. It always felt like our New Years celebrations lasted for two full days. It started with kazoos on New Years Eve — because boys have to practice! It continued until after dark the next day, when the Rose Bowl ended.

Growing up outside Chicago, the Rose Bowl was naturally the game of choice. Both my parents went to Big 10 schools, though I’m pretty sure the teams that played each year were never theirs. I’m certain that we never watched an Oregon team in the Rose Bowl. I’m not even sure any of us could have found Oregon on a map back then — including my parents.

It occurs to me now that my mother loved all sorts of things about the Rose Bowl, but none of them had much to do with football. She had five skinny boys and two baton-twirling girls. None of us were built to compete on the gridiron. But she loved everything surrounding the game.

First, she loved the pageantry. The parade was the official start of festivities. She’d get upset if any of us tried to play with our new toys rather than watch the floats, decorated with waving beauty queens and millions of flowers. The Macy’s parade had balloons, showing off New York’s endless supply of hot air, but California had flowers — an infinitude of flowers.

My mother grew up believing that a household’s true character was best seen in their garden. She was active in the local Garden Club, and loved to have fresh flowers on the table for Sunday meals. Her parents had a massive garden and enough lawn furniture to host backyard parties for what seemed like hundreds of guests.

My parents honeymooned in California, but after they started having children, vacations were limited to where the station wagon could take us.  We got to Missouri and once to Kansas — or was it Iowa? — but never to a land where flowers grew like weeds. That seemed mystical to us.

Once the parade was finished, there was a lull in the action on Berkley Lane — unless they showed the Goodyear blimp or the pictures from the sky that it provided. My mother marveled at this view throughout the game, but especially at halftime.

The marching bands were more important to her than the score of the game. She loved how the musicians could draw pictures, as they paraded across the field. She appreciated the precision this required, and also the teamwork. In her own way, she loved the same skills that are rewarded in football.

The marching band’s exhibit demonstrated the lesson more easily for her children. If you hit your marks and practice your role, you can play a part in a picture that’s bigger than you. You can’t see it clearly while you’re toiling on the ground, so you have to imagine how it looks from the blimp.

If it looks right from above, there’s your proof that everyone on the team played their part. All in all, it wasn’t a bad message for the start of each new year.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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It’s Hard to be a Good Sport if You Don’t Think You Can Win

January 3rd, 2020 by dk
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As we search for answers to relieve homelessness in our community, we should note what happened last Saturday in Abington, Scotland at a soccer match between crosstown rivals.

Abingdon United is near the top and Abington Town is at the bottom of the Hellenic League, which is roughly equivalent to the short-season instructional league our Ems play. It’s a professional team, but just barely. Town has only two wins this season, and their match with United was not going well.

Town found itself down 8-0 when they headed into the locker room at halftime. They never returned. Rather than face another 45 minutes of humiliation against United, the players and their manager slipped out the back door and went home.

“The game started off fine, there was no nastiness or anything like that,” United secretary John Blackmore told BBC. “There was a reasonable crowd there of about 160 people and they were as gobsmacked as anybody else. We want to win a game, but not in this sort of fashion.”

Abington United received a win by forfeit. The losing team’s manager quit the next day.

“At halftime the team made a joint decision not to return to the playing field, as they felt unsupported and undervalued by those higher in the club,” Abingdon Town’s manager Tranell Richardson tweeted. “I completely supported their decision. I asked for help on many occasions and none was provided.”

The rebuilding of the Abington Town team will take longer than expected. What does this little mishap in Lanarkshire county have to do with homelessness in Eugene?

Consider Saturday’s match from the Town players’ point of view. The players agreed there was zero chance that they could win the match, so what was the point of continuing? The opposing team would not be denied their win. The spectators weren’t being given a good game to watch. The easiest solution didn’t look illogical, so they left.

Plenty of people that you and I will pass on the street today feel like they are down 8-0 and there’s little or no chance they can come back from the deficit they’re already facing. To stay in the game would only be inviting further humiliation. Why bother? The winners will still win, and the crowd will move on. The back door beckons.

It’s hard to disagree with the root of their despair. Without a good education, a decent credit rating, and reliable family support, the second half can seem not worth the trouble. Especially if they feel “unsupported and undervalued by those higher in the club.”

Of course, that’s not how the game is supposed to be played. Whether you resolve to redouble your effort, reduce your expectations, or reform the system, something meaningful could happen in the second half.

I fear we’re not reckoning with the reality that second-half turnarounds are getting harder and harder. Living on the street, aggressive panhandling, feeding addictions — for some, this is refusing to play the second half. We lack a cogent, collective response. When they ask why they should bother, we don’t have a good answer.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Eugene Should Host an Abundance Swap in 2020

December 27th, 2019 by dk
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You may not have even sorted out your holiday wrapping and cards, separating those with glitter and foil from your recycling pile, but the outcome from the year-end celebration is already obvious. What you really needed from Santa was more closet space.

Storage bins and other organizing do-dads will be discounted for the next month. So will diet supplements and gym memberships. The post-holiday message is always clear: “Your stuff will take up more room but you really should take up less.”

That’s what we get for accepting a visit by a jolly fellow who has to suck in his gut to fit down our chimney. Calorie counting may have taken a holiday, but the calories accumulated nevertheless. In fact, that word sums up the result most of us see from dieting: never the less.

Let’s instead tackle our seasonal accumulation of stuff. Let’s follow Ashland’s lead in 2020. (I’m not referring to Ashland’s yoga-mat-in-every-household policy, though that wouldn’t hurt.) For the past 18 years, Ashland has staged an Abundance Swap in early December.

Here’s how it works. Ashland residents bring to the Swap a few items they own that someone else might like to receive as a gift. Per their instructions: “… fun, useful, interesting or beautiful items in really good shape that you feel you can spare. Note: ‘Quality’ doesn’t [always] mean ‘expensive.’ It means well-made, worthwhile, likely to be valued. The original price doesn’t matter.”

They place the items on a table for others to peruse. Those who bring items have the opportunity to see first what others have brought. No money changes hands. Even bartering is not allowed. It’s an Abundance Swap, after all. You could call it a back-of-the-closet exchange, but that doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue.

The city of Eugene has hosted fix-it fairs to help residents keep their stuff out of the landfill. This would serve the same purpose — or purposes. An Abundance Swap is really three brilliant solutions, dressed up as one.

We have many excellent thrift shops doing this all the time, but with one important difference. Abundance Swap participants can pass along the story that goes with the stuff. Truth is, we often hold our stuff because we can’t part with their stories. Seeing a beloved object go to a good home can add a vital sweetness to an otherwise bitter grief.

Many of us prefer not to buy anything new when we have alternatives, so an Abundance Swap redoubles our effort to conserve. If we come home with as much stuff as we took to the Swap, we haven’t enlarged our closets — but we have rearranged them. That can be progress.

Finally, an Abundance Swap triples as a community celebration that fits our land’s history. It’s really a potlatch feast for our stuff. Everyone brings their own abundance to the table, making the whole community more sustainable.

Seeing how we and our neighbors have more than we need is a genuine cause for celebration. It’s certainly doing us no good in the backs of our closets.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Holidays Give Us Time to Reflect on Impossibilities Like You

December 26th, 2019 by dk
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Holiday seasons bring most of our usual concerns to a standstill. Commuting is less of a bother. Rush hour passes with fewer people rushing. For this brief time, spreadsheets are out and bread feasts are in.

The slower pace invites reflection. Contemplation should consider bigger thoughts — those that won’t fit so easily into the hurly-burly of everyday life.

Some traditions entertain impossibly large ideas. We call them miracles, but don’t let that distract you from their modern relevance. They serve to enlarge our imagination, defying the limits we usually find necessary. It’s not easy to navigate a world full of unknowns, so we tend to avoid the unknowable. It saves time.

For all those reasons, when you have extra time, you should take it. Behold, the ubiquity of impossibilities.

Never mind our Goldilocks planet with oxygen to breathe and water to drink, generously hosting trillions of carbon-based organisms for millions of years. The chances of that are minuscule, but we needed only one.

Or the miracle of our mind, which probably leaves our particular type of organism alone with the opportunity — and the need — to reflect on it all. Whether you take all this to mean you’re lucky or loved hardly matters, so long as you take it. Breathe it. Drink it.

You’re special. And so is everyone else.

Claudius Ptolemy was incorrect when he placed humanity at the center of the known universe, but the Greek astronomer wasn’t completely wrong.

Scientists today place us — you and me and 7.6 billion other humans — at a midpoint between near-infinite complexities. Our Milky Way galaxy has at least 100 billion stars. The Hubble space telescope has so far detected at least 100 billion galaxies beyond ours.

I’m not a big believer in round numbers, but 100 billion seems to be the scale of circles that scientists are drawing to understand the world. They estimate there are slightly more than 100 billion mammals walking the earth right now. A Medievalist would be proud of the symmetry.

Each mammal hosts a population of microscopic bacteria that have co-evolved within each one of those warm-blooded bodies. Bacteria facilitate digestion, expel waste, and maintain healthy cells. A typical human body contains — wait for it — approximately 100 billion of these little worker mites. They form your microbiome and you couldn’t survive without them.

I wouldn’t be surprised if scientists someday delineate all the variables inside and between these industrious bacteria, finding another circle of 100 billion possibilities at the molecular or atomic level.

Ptolemy was wrong. The universe doesn’t revolve around us. But Ptolemy was also right. Considering the vast and intricate realities beyond and within us, we’ve been given the best seat in town. We’re somewhere near the middle of unending layers of discovered complexities.

I know it doesn’t always feel that way, when you’re balancing your checkbook or rotating your tires. That’s exactly why you should take these moments to ponder it. Because it’s always true — lucky or loved — whether you feel it or not.

Mathematically speaking, you mark the spot between twin awesomenesses. So, you know what that makes you?

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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